I am so thrilled to be sharing a new science-themed fiction book series, Zoey and Sassafras with you! I've found there are great non-fiction kid's books to spark a love of science, and wonderful fictional picture books that have themes that can be used in the science classroom. Zoey and Sassafras manages to do both!
This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more details.
Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows is the first book in this fun series by Asia Citro. This illustrated chapter book, aimed at readers in Kindergarten through 4th grade, features a curious girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras. Zoey loves science, insects and other animals. She's not only a strong female character, but also, incredibly relatable to any kid who loves investigating questions, getting down in the dirt, and a little bit of magic. The series is perfect for budding scientists, aspiring veterinarians and zoologists.
Zoey and Sassafras are tasked with caring for some magical animals in the series. To do so, they must use scientific thinking. Skillfully woven throughout the story are examples of experimental design, science vocabulary, and scientific reasoning. There are examples of science journal entries throughout and a glossary of science terms at the end. You can read a sample of the first story here, but be warned, you'll want to know what happens next!
Since we love insects and other crawly creatures, we thought it would be fun to design some experiments just like Zoey does. So, grab your thinking goggles, because off we go!
The most important part of an insect investigation is understanding that you are working with living creatures, and that they must be treated with kindness, care and respect. Be gentle with anything you collect, and be sure to return it to where you found it before too long!
You might need these materials for your insect investigations:
- Zoey and Sassafras printable science journal pages (they are free!)
- a container or plastic terrarium
- an insect box magnifier or magnifying glass
- paper towels
- flashlight or lamp
- drinking straws or other natural tubes, like plant stems (for making a bug hotel, see below)
Let's learn more about what insects need, just like Zoey and Sassafras had to do with their dragon in Dragons and Marshmallows. First, you'll need to collect some insects, bugs, worms or other small creatures. Look under rocks, small logs or pieces of bark. Dig in the soil. Where else can you find them?
(If you need creatures for a classroom project and/or live in an area where you can't access nature easily, you can investigate crickets purchased online or at the pet store, or even worms sold as bait! The same careful, respectful handling rules apply to these creatures.)
Time to start your investigation. Leave the experimental design open-ended for young minds to ponder. Here are some ideas for experimental questions:
- Does my animal prefer light, or dark?
- Would my animal like to live where it is damp or dry?
- What types of food does my animal prefer?
- What type of home would my creature like to live in? (Try building a bug hotel! There is a fun design built with LEGO bricks here!)
Use these free printable Zoey and Sassafras science journal sheets to help organize your ideas and collect your data.
What are your results? We'd love to hear about your insect or bug investigations! Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+!
For more excellent STEM activities and extensions to compliment Zoey and Sassafras, check out the book's website here.
This activity aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Here are a few aligned standards:
- Kindergarten: K-LS1-1 (making observations of what animals need to survive)
- 2nd Grade: 2-LS4-1 (making observations to understand the diversity of life in different habitats)
- 2nd Grade: Take it a step further- include plant investigations! 2-LS2-1 (design an investigation to see if plants need light and water to grow)
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows in exchange for an honest review. Zoey and Sassafras character art is used with express written permission from Marion Lindsay and The Innovation Press.